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How to protect your smartphone from loss and theft

We're increasingly reliant on our mobile phones to store all of our data. There was a time when all they held was a few contacts and your high score on Snake, but now we now carry our bank details, emails, social networks and photos around in our pockets. That makes our phones a bigger target for thieves than ever, and increases the need to take better care of them and what they contain. Here are our best tips for keeping your phone and your data safe.

1. Partying? Break out your old smartphone

We've been through a few generations of smartphones by now, so most of us will have an old model lying around the house or gathering dust in a drawer.

smartphone choice
Sometimes it might pay to leave your latest device at home./ © AndroidPIT

If you're heading somewhere where there's a potentially high risk of losing your phone, get a second (prepaid) SIM for that old handset and take it out with you instead of your current one. Then, if a dodgy party guest takes a shine to your device, or you drop it down the side of a couch, it won't be as big a deal as losing your current phone.

You might not be able to take such good party selfies, but all your important data – and your new phone itself – will be safe at home.

2. Trying different locking techniques 

The vast majority of phone users leave their phone lock on the default setting, which is usually a numerical passcode, although some newer phones have fingerprint sensors too.

There are plenty of other ways for Android users to unlock their phones, all of which offer additional security. These include facial recognition and Smart Lock. The latter can be configured to unlock your phone when you plug in a USB cable or connect to a specific Wi-Fi network.

It's worth looking into the security options that Android provides and seeing which one works for you.

andrdoidpit galaxy s4 face unlock 5
Facial recognition is one alternative to a PIN. / © ANDROIDPIT

3. Use an antivirus – but not how you think

Generally speaking, Android phones have no need for antivirus software but there are some features that can prove very handy. The most obvious is a theft alarm. Once the program is set up, the person who has had their phone stolen can send a message from another device that will make their phone emit a loud warning tone that the thief cannot turn off.

As one of the best antivirus software packages for Android is Avast!. Part of its Anti-Theft app is a shrill female voice that blurts out 'Your SIM has been stolen' constantly – and suddenly a stolen phone doesn't seem so attractive.

Avast app backup
Avast has a number of useful security measures. / © AndroidPIT

4. Set an extra password or PIN for sensitive apps 

Unfortunately, our PINs are not always as secret as they should be. To keep a jealous partner, work gossip or nosy parent out of your business, it's worth considering adding a layer of security to apps that hold your private information, such as WhatsApp or Facebook.

You can add a PIN to individual apps using Avast! and you don't need to root your phone in order to do it. You can also add a lock to you photos, which could prove rather valuable…

5. Search for your phone or erase data remotely

You can try every other precaution listed here and there may still be a time when an undesirable person will get hold of your phone and your data. But don't despair, there are apps that can help you track your phone down and remotely delete any private information.

Google's Android Device Manager allows you to configure multiple terminals with one account and control each device separately (you need to download the same app on all your devices in order for it to work well). If you lose one of your devices and want to erase your data, you could log on from another and get rid of everything within seconds. 

AndroidPIT Google Settings Android Device Manager
Google Device Manager can help you delete data remotely. / © ANDROIDPIT

There are several other apps that perform similar functions in the Google Play store, so it's worth shopping around to find the best one for you.

Follow these tips and your phone – and perhaps more importantly data – should be much safer. There are protection methods in Android to suit almost any user, but the general advice is always to be wary with having anything on your phone that you wouldn't want anyone else to see.

Do you use any of these tips? Are there any we've missed?


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  • Android device manager is best to have a watch on your android phone

  • Mark Sep 1, 2015 Link to comment

    Here in the Philippines most people who can afford a "flag ship" phone as they call them. Will have two phones a cheap one they use in public, and the good one for private. Phone snatcher are epidemic here only careless people use them in the open. The use of passwords doesn't matter there are shops that will hack your phone in seconds for 100 pesos or about 2 dollars. I wish they still put lanyard holes in the phone so they could be attached to you.

  • Interesting ! I'll check it out

  • Indeed, these are the things you need to know to protect your smartphone from getting lost or stolen. It is best if you are armed of ways on how protect your investment.

  • Mark G. Aug 30, 2015 Link to comment

    Even when locked most people use the easiest of passwords or pass codes.

    You should use a password with a combination of lower & upper case letters and symbols

    "Andr01dP1t/1" for example is considerably harder to crack than if you just used "androidpit"

    Similarly 5 or 6 number pass codes are much tougher the 3 or 4.

    Android Device Manager is a great way to keep a eye on the kids.

    I use Smart lock at home or the parents house and at work. It's also great for the car.

    App locks are useful if your phone could be accessible by lots of people (family/work colleagues/friends) though it would be better if you could programme the Smart Lock into the app locks functionality.

  • Mike Aug 30, 2015 Link to comment

    How many times do you go somewhere and see phones just sitting on a table, counter,bench,etc. #1 rule should be, don't leave your device laying around. Make sure you have it with you at all times!

  • Android Device Manager is a great free app to download on your Android device. You are able to remotely lock, ring, or wipe your device, right from your browser. Another great security app is Cerberus - though the only downside is that it costs money. Both options are great at what they do and I wouldn't go without one or the other while using an Android phone.

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